My mother doesn’t get rid of anything, or at least very little. For people like this, the books, papers, magazines, bills, clothes, food, dishes, bags and boxes accumulate until there is little room left to live. They are called savers or hoarders. The picture above is not of my mother’s place, but it gives a sense of what such a space looks like. These are homes where guests are not invited in because there is no place to sit down.
A manager at mom’s retirement community in Toledo called last week. Her apartment must be cleaned out so it can be treated for an infestation of moths. The person who called passed the problem into my hands with no guidance on how to resolve it, only a deadline for when the exterminator is coming. But I did get a phone number for Senior Independence where I talked to a woman who helped plan a strategy. A small crew will go into my mom’s apartment next week and box up her things so that movers can take it all to a storage facility (where she already has three units). I bought boxes and packing tape on Friday at Home Depot and dropped them off at her apartment.
I used to live amid all my mother’s things — a life lived in narrow aisles. At the time it seemed normal. I spent many hours moving her things from one place to another. But after I left and got used to having space to live in, I could never go back. When I walk into her apartment now, it feels like I am suffocating. I take her out to dinner when we spend time together. Needless to say, when the phone call came last week, I felt distressed about what to do. She has had two earlier housing crises since moving to this retirement community ten years ago, but I was able to resolve them myself. This time I couldn’t. And at 87, she certainly can’t either. Hopefully the plan with the Senior Independence workers will succeed, even though it is not a permanent resolution.
My mother is a talented artist — oil painting, miniatures, crocheting, among other arts. There are lovely bits of her art here and there amid all the clutter. For each project she has completed, though, she has purchased books and supplies for hundreds of others that will never be done. All her unfinished projects add to the volume of things in her life.
Over the years I have come to view her stacks of things as a great blanket that she wraps around herself to feel warm and safe. In the past when I have tried to take the blanket away because of the hazards it creates, she has become frantic and angry. So there was always an impasse. I was surprised she even agreed to have the workers come and box it all up, but perhaps she sensed there was no other option. She expects all the boxes to return once the exterminator has finished.
I cannot see how it can all come back, but it is also not clear to me how to prevent it. She loves her blanket.